29 Apr 2015

Concerns growing for NZers in Nepal

1:31 pm on 29 April 2015

Concerns are growing for a handful of New Zealanders still unaccounted for in Nepal, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says.

Rescue teams work to clear rubble in the capital's Durbar Square.

Rescue teams work to clear rubble in Kathmandu's Durbar Square. Photo: AFP

More than 5000 people are confirmed dead after Saturday's devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake but Nepal's government says the death toll could reach 10,000.

Murray McCully speaking to reporters on Wednesday,

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Mr McCully told Morning Report that 250 New Zealanders in Nepal had made contact to say they were safe.

"There's a handful of New Zealanders still unaccounted for. There are no reasons to have specific concerns for any of them," he said.

"These are people who were outside of the main centre on treks and so on but communications would be difficult but obviously, as time passes by, we are getting more concerned."

He said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) was advising people to leave Nepal on commercial flights but would review that to see whether New Zealand should join Australia in helping its citizens get out.

One group of Christchurch schoolgirls and teachers are hoping to fly out from Kathmandu this evening.

The 25 students and four teachers from St Margaret's College are in the country as part of the World Challenge programme, which runs expeditions for students.

They came through the earthquake unscathed and have been camping just outside Kathmandu and helping local people in outlying villages.

The school's principal, Gillian Simpson, said it was looking likely the group would fly out today.

"They believe because they are a group of schoolchildren that they will try and get a priority through to get them out as a group on the flight that they were scheduled on - but again, changing landscape," she said.

"We have to be prepared for any changes, and they certainly got food and water and shelter."

Ms Simpson said if their flight went ahead they would arrive in Christchurch at 8pm tomorrow night.

Tourists crowd Kathmandu airport waiting for a flight out. 27 April

Tourists crowd Kathmandu Airport waiting for a flight out of the quake-hit country. Photo: AFP / Axel Hager / DPA

Meanwhile, the man who led the Student Volunteer Army after the first Christchurch earthquake in 2010 is heading to Kathmandu to help.

Canterbury University student Sam Johnson, who will help train youth leaders how to mobilise volunteers for disaster response, said he hoped he could establish a student volunteer army in Nepal to help aid agencies.

Mr Johnson said he could not predict what he would arrive to but he was willing to do what he could for the week he was there.

Nepal on war footing - Prime Minister

The UN is estimating eight million people have been affected by the earthquake - more than a quarter of Nepal's population.

Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said the death toll - currently 5000 - could reach 10,000 once information came in from far-flung villages and towns.

Mr Koirala said his country was on a war footing as it struggled to cope with the aftermath.

He said the government was doing all it could but was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster.

The National Emergency Operation Centre said another 10,000 people were injured, and more than 450,000 were effectively homeless.

All of the climbers who were stranded at camps high up Mount Everest by the earthquake and avalanches have now been taken by helicopter to safety.

About 350 foreign climbers, and double the number of local Sherpa guides, were on the mountain when the disaster struck.

However, a fresh avalanche has left up to 250 more people missing.

The avalanche hit a village in Nepal's Rasuwa district, a popular trekking area to the north of Kathmandu, and the district governor said foreign tourists could be among the missing.

- RNZ / BBC / Reuters

Rescue team personnel carry an injured person towards a waiting rescue helicopter at Everest Base Camp.

Rescue team personnel carry an injured person towards a waiting rescue helicopter at Everest Base Camp. Photo: AFP

Nepalese residents following fresh tremors in Kathmandu.

A series of strong aftershocks have hit since Saturday's earthquake. Photo: AFP

Aerial images show a campsite in the Chuchepati area of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.

Tent cities have sprung up - including here, at Chuchepati in the Kathmandu Valley. Photo: AFP / Citizenside / Thomas Dutour